The first time I ever had Indian food left quite an impression upon me. Not the food, but the experience. There was this amazing restaurant in Manhattan. It was called Nirvana and for me, at the tender age of 20 or so, it seemed just that.
Nirvana was located across the street from Central Park. All we could see from the street was a plaque on the building that let us know we were at the right address. Once we went into the building and walked toward the elevator, there was a man dressed in full Indian garb waiting there to escort us upstairs. I remember he was tall, dressed in white and looked like a character in an exotic movie.
The elevator went up for what seemed like a thousand floors and when the doors opened, I was transported to a Bollywood movie. Well, I didn’t know about Bollywood back then but that’s how I would describe it now.
The restaurant was huge, covered in dramatic carpeting, even on the walls. Huge picture windows held a gorgeous view of the city. Music played and everything was magical. For someone who had never traveled anywhere, I felt like I was in a fairy tale.
It’s too bad I didn’t have an exotic palate back then because I didn’t want to eat Indian food. I didn’t think I’d like it. Wow, I wish I could go back and have a do-over. I ordered tandoori chicken, probably because it was recommended to me, probably because it was the closest dish to something I would find familiar and like. I don’t remember whether I liked it or not but I never forgot Nirvana.
Later, when I truly loved Indian food, tandoori chicken was my least favorite dish. The flavor was good but it always tasted dry. I wanted to make a vegan version of that dish – not the dry one, of course, but I wanted those spicy flavors. It took me 3 tries to get it just right. I had the flavors down but I wanted to find the best way to get those blackened marks on the tofu while not letting it dry out. I baked, I broiled, I fried and finally I figured it out.
Not only does the Tandoori-Style Tofu taste delicious – spicy and moist – but the leftover marinade helps make an amazing sauce that can be ladled over the tofu, if desired, and over rice or potatoes.
This looks exotic but it’s really quick and easy to make. My Tandoori-Style Tofu with Spiced Tomato-Yogurt Sauce certainly brings me back to Nirvana. Enjoy!
Tandoori-Style Tofu with Spiced Tomato-Yogurt Sauce
2 Tbs. non-dairy yogurt, plain
2 Tbs. canola oil or vegan butter
To make the Tandoori-Style Tofu: After the tofu has been pressed and drained, cut it into your desired shapes. I cut the block in half, then cut each half into slices and then into triangles. Place the slices into a shallow bowl. Cover the tofu with the juice of one lemon and sprinkle with salt. Set aside while you prepare the marinade.